A Study of Romans 7:4-5
“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.” (Romans 7:4-5)
It is manifestly clear from these scriptures that we bear two distinct manner of fruit while in this life. The first, a direct product of our sinful nature, is unto death; it is totally worthless regarding our standing before God. The second, a blissful harvest of our union with the Saviour, is unto God; wholly acceptable by Him. The first is only brought forth by the flesh. The second is gendered by the spiritual, or inward man as it has been married to the Lamb. These two fruits are as distinct as the two natures that produce them, and can never, in any case, be yielded except after his kind.
For a plain illustration of this, one need look no farther than the first chapter of Genesis. “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1.11-12). Two expressions found in these scriptures vividly restrict the meaning. The first, “after his kind,” and the second, “whose seed is in itself.”
This being the first order of natural reproduction, can it be thought that spiritual reproduction could possibly be restricted to a lesser degree? In the development of time, as the trees and grasses began to fulfill the command of God, they all, with exacting precision, brought forth “after his kind.” What does this mean? It means that when an apple tree reproduced it brought forth apples, and nothing else. Further, when apples were brought forth on the tree it was according to the statement, “whose seed was in itself.” They contained apple seed, for continual reproduction, “after his kind.” (See also Genesis 1:29)
That this spiritual reproduction is after the same manner is beyond question. Hear the Lord’s clear declaration: “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:16-20). Our Saviour here was using this illustration as it directly applied to the texts in Genesis 1, before quoted. His meaning was unmistakable. He likened men unto trees. The good tree (man) cannot bring forth evil fruit. The evil tree (man) cannot bring forth good fruit. There is no exception allowed; no variations tolerated from the divinely appointed plan. Both will reproduce “after his kind.” Both good men and evil men will most certainly bear fruit, for the Lord stated emphatically that in such manner will they each be known. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” It is not to be assumed that all the world will know them. Far from it. These instructions were given to His disciples on the mount, and to His disciples only are given eyes to see these things. (Matthew 13:13-16)
What is fruit? How does the natural man bear fruit? How does the spiritual man bear fruit? Does the sinner saved by grace bear fruit unto God, and also fruit unto death?
What is fruit?
Simply put, fruit is the byproduct of that which bears it. The grass of the field casts seed that later springs up out of the earth, and it too is grass. The grass will never be more or less than grass. You cannot tell it from the original. The beast of the field has an offspring, and it comes forth a beast. All its characteristics are the image of the parent. No one but a fool would imagine that the beast might somehow later become something other than a beast. Adam and Eve had a son. It was in every respect a duplication of them. And it was also a sinner, “after his kind.” Adam’s son, and those that follow, could never procreate except “after his kind.” These all, seeds, beasts, and sons, are fruits of the earth.
Fruit is also seen as a by-product of one’s natural affections, also known in the Scriptures as the heart. “For every tree is know by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” (Luke 6.44-45)
We are convinced that nowhere in the Word of God is the distinction drawn between that that is acceptable before Him, and that that is not, as it is here. His children are here again likened unto trees, and they bring forth out of their inward being treasures that the Lord describes as good. The children of the world, also compared to trees, bring forth evil fruit, because their hearts are evil. (See also Matthew 12:33)
How does the natural man bring forth fruit?
First; of their own way. “Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.” (Proverbs 1:31)
Second; by sinful tendency. “The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin.” (Proverbs 10-16)
Third; by being the seed of their father, Satan, the old serpent. “Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent” (Isaiah 14:29). Contrast Proverbs 12:12 with item three.
Fourth; in self love. “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images.” (Hosea 10:1)
Fifth; fearlessly. “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;” (Jude 1:12)
Here Jude, like the Lord before him, describes the sinner as a tree, who, here sends forth utterly worthless fruit, in that it withereth away. Thus he is said to be without fruit.
How does the spiritual man bear fruit?
First; by being blessed. (See Psalm 1:1). “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3). Observe here again the saved sinner is likened to a tree; one that has been planted by the hand of the LORD. Where is he planted? Beside the rivers of water, for nowhere else can he survive. And his fruit is seasonal, or comes forth exactly when the determinate counsel of the LORD sees fit. No untimely figs found here.
Second; by multiplication. “And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen” (Ezekiel 36:30). This verse should be read in context with verses 24-38. Again the saved sinner is here described as a fruit bearing tree. It will bear its fruit only as the Lord is pleased to multiply it.
Third; from God directly. “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found” (Hosea 14.8). Unlike Israel (Hosea 10.1), Ephraim has given up his idols as a very bad cause. The LORD has spoken, and he has heard. He sees himself as a living, or green tree, and the LORD confirms his condition by telling him his fruit is of divine origin. This we believe, in a general way, is the path all the elect are brought regarding fruitfulness.
Fourth; by ordination. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16).
To this point we have seen what fruit is, how the natural man bears fruit, and how the spiritual man does as well. Before commenting on the fourth question, “Does the sinner saved by grace bear fruit unto God, and also fruit unto death” the subject of the fruits of God’s children needs further attention. To that end we observe the following Scriptures.
“By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). The casual reader might see nothing more in this text than a precept to be observed or not as one sees fit. Does not “let us offer” seem to say as much? We think not. “I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him” (Isaiah 57:19). All the “lip offerings” combined the religious world may attempt to offer up will find no more acceptance before God than Cain’s offering the fruit of the ground (Genesis 4:3). The LORD respects only that fruit He has created.
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:17-18). Here again there may be some that would assume more than the LORD has given, by holding the view that we must sow, or there will be no fruit of righteousness. Note well, then, that verse seventeen says the fruit of righteousness is sown. This is not a “maybe,” or an “ought to,” or a “you should,” but an absolute certainty’ proclaimed with the little word, is. God’s children are peacemakers, and they make peace as they sow the fruits of righteousness in peace. They could fail of this whenever the eternal decrees of God could fail. It is further certain according to Paul, as he recorded the following. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). Clearly, the chastening hand of God will exercise His children in season, to bring forth fruit.
Together with the text in James 3, consider the following: “My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver. I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures” (Proverbs 8:19-21). In this text we will briefly notice four things.
First; the choice fruit is His. As we are conformed to His image (Romans 8:29), more and more we will desire to bring forth no fruit but that which results from a union with Him. (See Song of Solomon 2:3)
Second; the wisdom James referred to as being from above can be nothing less than the LORD Himself, as the whole intent of Proverbs Chapter eight is a setting up Christ as Wisdom.
Third; “the fruit of righteousness” (James 3:18) can only be sown as the LORD leads in the way of righteousness. Fourth; “That I may cause…” May we never lose sight of the precious truth of the doctrine of first causes. What we are, have, or hope to be, is the result of the infinite purposes of God, the first cause of all causes.
No survey of the subject of fruit could be complete without the following scripture: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the developments of Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). This is without question how the spiritual man bears fruit, and any other method must be considered counterfeiting the blessed work of the spirit. Do we love God, and the brethren? “Oh, yes, if not deceived!” you say. Be sure then that your love is a fruit of the Spirit, and not a natural reaction. Have we had some few moments of blessed joy and peace? “Indeed! Indeed!” If genuine, then again, this is fruit that originates from the Tree of Life. And so we must respond in similar fashion to all these fruits of the Spirit. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)
Does the sinner saved by grace bear fruit unto God, and also fruit unto death?
Most assuredly he does. So much so is this the way we travel we are often brought to near despair. Often the heavens seem closed, and the gates of prayer sealed to our cries. We lament as did the leper, “Unclean! Unclean!” Surely our sins continually vex us, and disturb our very being. This is the source of our doubts, and brings on something much like the following:
‘Tis a point I long to know;
Oft it causes anxious thought;
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I his, or am I not?
If I love, why am I thus?
Why this dull and lifeless frame?
Hardly, sure, can they be worse
Who have never heard his name.
Could my heart so hard remain,
Prayer a task and burden prove,
Every trifle give me pain,
If I knew a Saviour’s love?
When I turn my eyes within,
All is dark, and vain, and wild;
Filled with unbelief and sin,
Can I deem myself a child?
If I pray, or hear, or read,
Sin is mixed with all I do:
You that love the Lord indeed,
Tell me, is it thus with you?
But someone may ask, “Are not the sins of the flesh unto death? Yes, they beyond doubt are. Certain it is too, that the body of this flesh will die, and that according to God’s appointment (Hebrews 9:27). If this may yet be a puzzle, recall how that, “Whatsoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (I John 3:9). In the body of flesh we continue to sin, thus crying out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death” (Romans 7:24)? Our new man in Christ cannot sin, for it is born of God, and thus brings forth fruit unto God. Our old man, unrenewed, cannot do good, and thus brings forth fruit unto death, also called the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). The tree of life cannot be missed by the pilgrims on their way to heaven, for it is in the midst of the street, also known as the Kings high way. It is on either side of the river, so no matter if the pilgrim stands on this side, or has been called to cross over, he will be amply supplied. The fruit of the tree is monthly, or as we would say, year around. It is never “out of season.” It seems crystal clear that whether we view Christ as the Vine, or the Tree of Life, all our fruit stems from Him. We have been likened throughout the Scriptures as trees. Thus we are his seed, “after His kind.” Christ is truly the firstfruits of God’s harvest (I Corinthians 15:23).
James F. Poole – 1991